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Life Anew

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                Aaron Cross looked up at the agent with pain in his eyes. Marta was collapsed in his arms, nearly dead. The agent lowered the gun.

                “Outcome 5,” he said, “the entire CIA has been looking for you for a long time. Ironic that they aren’t the ones to finally catch you, isn’t it.”

                “Are you going to kill me?” Aaron asked gruffly, he was bleeding a lot, but Marta had nearly bled out, so he wasn’t complaining. The agent looked him over.

                “Why would I kill you? You just helped save the world from terrorists,” the agent smiled, “I’ve called an ambulance for Doctor Shearing as soon as I showed up, it’ll be here at any moment.”

                “So where do we go from here,” Aaron sighed in relief, “You turn me into the CIA for money?”

                “I’ve got different orders,” the man kneeled, “Have you ever heard of the IMF?”

*****

                They gave Aaron Cross a new name- William Brandt-, a new life, a new purpose. Nothing that he hadn’t done with Outcome, but with more honesty, less smokescreens, and it was for the good of the world, not just America. He was good at what he did, thanks to the enhancements from Outcome.

                Then they gave him the mission that would forever change his life.

                William Brandt, was sent to Croatia in a protection detail.

                He was made leader of the detail to protect a couple. They were told that this was a very important couple. He took protection of the more active of the two, the husband, and the most of the rest of the team was on the wife. He liked the wife, she was pretty, she had a kind smile and she reminded him of Marta. The husband was a special agent named Ethan Hunt, very attractive and very good at what he did.

                The Hunt went out on a jog one morning and William went with him, leaving the entire team with the wife. He liked running with the man, even though he had to stay out of sight (which wasn’t difficult). He had a bad feeling and turned around and started back before the Hunt could pass him again.

                Upon his arrival at the hotel that the couple was staying at, Will tried to check in with his team. But then he discovered that they were all at the couple’s suite, some of them passed out, a few were nearly dead and all were injured. He must have just missed the hit squad, because he could hear the screams of the wife in the alley, he jumped out of the window just as Ethan Hunt entered the suite.

                Will tracked the kidnappers through the streets of Sisak, Croatia, as far as he could. But he lost them about 20 minutes in pursuit.

                Hurrying back to the hotel, he radioed in his failure and felt the crushing weight of it hit him. What if that had been Marta? He had failed to protect one person, how could he help the world?

                William Brandt asked, for the first time in his life, to be put on desk work, he had the IQ to be an analyst, so that’s what he worked at.

                He excelled at it and worked hard to be the best. It wasn’t long before he was Chief Analyst.

                He’d given up on field work, Marta was still safe with her new husband (a desk clerk for IMF) and he was still doing his duty to the world. He could have a normal life, marry some nice guy or girl, and die old.

                He would never have to shoot someone again.

                He wouldn’t have to run for his life.

                He was free.

*****

                “Though officials are claiming that the explosions were the result of a bad gas line, professionals think that this is an act of hostility from America.”

                William sighed at his laptop that played the news about the Kremlin bombing. He looked over at the Secretary and turned it off as the car pulled to a stop in front of and alley.

                Ethan Hunt opened the door.

                William sat awkwardly as the Secretary and Ethan talked until Ethan looked at him and squinted, as if trying to recognize him. He shifted uncomfortably, looking down.

                “This is William Brandt, my Chief Analyst,” the Secretary introduced. William extended his hand and hoped that the way he’d thinned over the years would keep the top notch agent from recognizing him in the slightest.

                “Pen?” Ethan Hunt asked holding his hand out.

                “Pardon?”

                “Pen, do you have pen?”

                “Sure,” William.

                “Chief Analyst you say?” Ethan squints at William as he scribbles on the palm of his hand.

                “If you’re implying that I made a bad-,” William starts to say, situating himself.

                “European male, mid 50s, grey hair, blue eyes. Who is he?”

                “Crude drawing, but based on your description… That could be Kurt Hendricks. Over 190 IQ, served in Swedish forces, Professor of Physics at Stockholm University, specialist of nuclear endgame theory, forced to resign because…..” William looked the Secretary then back at Ethan, “well because he’s crazy.”

                “Cobalt….”

                Ethan and Mr. Secretary discussed Cobalt as William studied Hunts features. He was attractive, he had this long brown hair and an intense look in his eyes.

                William came back into the conversation at, “Unless of course, you were to escape somewhere between me and the airport, having assaulted Mr. Brandt and me.”

                “Uh, sir?” William looked up.

                “And having scrounged up everything you could from a backup supply stash that I’ve overlooked where your team is waiting for orders.”

                “Sir you may want to re-,” William tried again.

                “You will then disappear and, this conversation having never taken place, your intentions would be unclear. But if any one of your team is caught or killed they will be branded terrorists out to insite nuclear war.” William sat there, regretting everything.

                The Secretary pulled a flash drive out of a pouch and handed it out to Ethan, William following the Secretary’s hand with his eyes and finally trailing them up Ethan’s face.

                “Your mission, should you choose to accept it,” the Secretary said softly. William remembered when he used to hear that said to him and he frowned.

                He was lost in thought when it all went to hell.

*****

                The fact that that actually worked wasn’t so much of a surprise to the water logged William Brandt as the fact that someone besides himself was actually crazy enough to try something like that.

                He’d tried questioning Ethan on the choice of distraction but he couldn’t get a straight answer. This Ethan Hunt was just as good as he was, maybe a bit more.

                But then they were getting on the train, and he was cold, and then there were guns pointed at him, and Ethan’s pants were sticking to his ass, and Will’s whole world slowly was falling apart. But then he’d changed clothes and Jane was eyeing him suspiciously and Benji was eyeing him amusedly and Ethan was pretending he didn’t exist. He watched the video with the others and he remembered when he was a tool of destruction.

                He listened with vague interest as Ethan debriefed his team, things that he already knew. He couldn’t believe he’d been thrown into the world that he’d tried to escape. Then Ethan asked if anyone wanted out and his brain screamed, “YES GET ME OUT OF HERE YOU SLIMY BAG OF SHIT.” But he knew his duty. He was still an IMF agent. He could do that.

                They planned it out slowly. It was messy and not at all like any of the planning meetings he headed where nobody had any agendas but the end goal. But it was the only part of his life that made any sense at the time.

                The ride to Dubai was full of Benji trying to make friends with him and him trying to make the agents see just how nuts their plan was. He knew what they were capable of, and he’d certainly done some things just as nuts, but he did everything the old fashion, physical way, where as they were doing it technologically.

                And then there was Ethan having to climb the outside of the tallest building in the world. William could have done it, without their fancy technology if he had to, but he also was still “just an analyst”.  So he was the “Helper” and he listened to Ethan’s heavy breathing and grunting in his ear and wished that he was back at his desk and not hearing the man whose wife he failed to protect or save grunting in his ear.

                It was tense, Jane was still eyeing him suspiciously but Benji was completely.

                And then everything went to hell again. And then he was falling out of a window to catch Ethan Hunt, and then Ethan was climbing up his body, and then Jane was sticking a lens in his eyeball, and then Ethan decided to give them the ACTUAL FUCKING LAUNCH CODES.

                Everything in his training taught him to not fucking let this happen.

                And everything fell apart again and he couldn’t believe he was doing this because really, this wasn’t what he was trained for.

                When Munroe let them in he was sure that they would be killed on spot, but instead, she had no idea who they were. He watched as Ethan worked his magic and smiled at the right times, he hoped that they were convincing and he listened to Benji and Jane work their magic and he hoped to hell that he wouldn’t have to kill anyone. William went over the launch codes, he even recognized some of the data himself.

                Finally he nodded at Ethan with a smile and Ethan grinned back before making the call to Benji.

                Munroe went to hand him the papers so they could leave but then pulled them back. He looked up to her and immediately regretted his mistake as she looked right into his eye with the contact.

                He didn’t even have to think about what he was doing, only responded, his instincts taking over. He took down man after man, protecting himself and Ethan and yes, he did kill someone, but he didn’t even recognize it until he was done. Ethan looked at him in surprise because he knew that no analyst should have moves like that.

                And all he could think was I’ve fucked up.

****

                William Brandt was dying inside, he’d promised himself when he became an IMF agent that he’d never look back on his past in regret. But now that he was sat in some safe house in Dubai he decided to let himself slip for once. Slip into depression.

                It didn’t last long once the argument started with Jane. She was bullheaded and he was pissed off at himself, and Benji wasn’t doing a singular fucking thing to help.

                It was a lot easier when the only people who could yell at me for my mistakes was Marta and myself. He couldn’t help but to think.

                “You’re a field agent now, you can’t make mistakes like that!” William said to Benji.

                “And you’re just an analyst,” Ethan suddenly sneered, coming into the room, “Right?”

                “What…. What are you asking?” Will asked slowly, as if confused, he hated lying like this.

                “Oh well let’s see if I can put this in any other terms,” Ethan said before pulling a gun and aiming at him. Of course William responded immediately, disarming Ethan and then taking back his own gun when Ethan took that. It ended with the gun pointing at Ethan and Jane pointing a gun at him.

                “How does an agent with skills like that, become an analyst?” Ethan asked, slightly impressed. William’s senses slowed enough to understand what just happened. He unloaded the gun and handed it back to Ethan.

                “Well we all have our secrets,” he said slowly, looking up into Ethan’s eyes apologetically, “Don’t we?” Ethan looked down at him, studying him. Will’s heart beat hard as he willed Ethan to leave him be.

                Don’t go down this road. He thought.

                Ethan stepped closer to him, gazing down at him, “You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.”

                I can’t tell him. I should but I can’t.

                Then Ethan was gone.

****

                On the way to India, William spent a considerable amount of time watching Ethan interact with his team. He hadn’t had something like that since the Army, and he wasn’t the most popular then. He spent all of his time as an Outcome agent learning not to trust anything but the orders and his training. Then he spent all of his time as an IMF agent moving from team to team and then to being an analyst then to Chief Analyst. He was used to working alone, but here was a team that seemed, as much as he could tell, to accept him despite his lying to them for most of their time knowing him. Ethan especially seemed to trust him for some reason, did he recognize him?

                And then Ethan left his team to come sit with him.

                “I’m deathly afraid of smiley clowns,” Ethan whispered after a moment of relatively comfortable silence. Will turned to him in surprise. Ethan grinned at him.

                “Okay….?” He said slowly, taking a drink of water with a slight smile. Ethan seemed thouroughly amused with him.

                “I’m telling you my secrets William Brandt,” he smiled, leaning closer to him, amusement glittered in his eyes, “What’s yours?”

                “Oh….” Will looked away, rolling his eyes, “I uh… I hate the Philippines.” He turned back to Ethan with a hesitant smile.

                “Is there a story that goes with that?” Ethan asked amusedly. Will gave him a playful frown.

                “Well, you didn’t tell me why you hate smiley clowns, so why should I tell you why I hate the Philippines?” He asked taking a drink of his water. Ethan chuckled.

                “Well, I always thought that the smiling ones are more likely to be murderers than the frowning ones,” Ethan explained himself, “and I wasn’t always the dashing, brave agent that you know now.” Ethan smiled at him broadly, leaning closer.

                Wait, is he flirting. Will wondered.

                “On a mission once,” Will said slowly, smiling along, “I caught a really bad virus while I was in Manila during the mission. It was so bad that I was out for a full day and the target had to take care of me. And immediately after waking up from my fever breaking I was on the run from an assassin and saving the target from said assassin. So let’s just say that I’ve had bad experiences in the Philippines.”

                “Well, yours is definitely more interesting than mine,” Ethan smiled widely at Will’s story. Will looked away from Ethan’s intense eyes. “You know, I’m glad you told me.”

                “Can I ask you a question,” Will interrupted bluntly, he was never one for not knowing the purpose of the conversation, “why are you so friendly with me when I’ve been lying to you since we first met?” Ethan sobered some.

                “Because we all have our reasons for the things we do. We’re agents, it’s what we do,” Ethan said kindly, “I’ve lied to friends before. It’s nothing new to my lifestyle. And I can see that you’ve been punishing yourself, distancing yourself from the camaraderie.”

                “Yeah, well it’s hard to let yourself be part of the team when they don’t even know who you are,” Will looked at Benji and Jane who glanced at the two of them.

                “So who are you Agent Brandt?” Ethan looked up at him with a slight smile. William smiled down at him softly.

                “I’m a huge fucking mess Ethan Hunt.”

                Ethan laughed a wonderful laugh up at him.

                “Welcome to the club William Brandt.”

                William looked at Ethan with a feeling of trust. Even though Ethan knew nothing about who he truly was, Ethan trusted him.

                It was the best damn feeling that William had had for a long time.

Chapter Text

“You’re insane,” William said to Ethan, arms crossed over his chest. Super agent here had broken several bones, and injured nerve endings in several areas.

And he had the audacity to laugh at William Brandt.

“Yeah, what else is new,” Ethan said breathily, “Don’t suppose they told you when they’re letting me outta this joint did they? Chief Analyst? ” Ethan had a twinkle in his eye and William rolled his own eyes.

“It’s a hospital Ethan, not a holding cell,” William laughed, Ethan grumbled a “might as well be” before Will continued, “Did Benji and Jane come see you?”

“Yeah, Benji made sure to let me know that he did all the work, and deserves a metal for what he did,” Ethan laughed, “Claimed that you’d be dead if it weren’t for him.”

“Yeah,” Will laughed, “He’s quite cocky about it. Told me I owe him a drink.”

“Yeah he told me you did,” Ethan chuckled along, “I told him I’d buy everybody a drink sometime.” Both of them chuckled for a second.

“After the crazy shit you pulled, you owe me more than just one drink,” Will said after a second.

“Are you asking me out Chief Analyst Brandt?” Ethan teased. Will looked at him, a sparkle in his eye.

“Would you say yes if I did?”

 

________________________________________________________________

 

Their first date was about exactly like how you think a date with Ethan Hunt would go. Ethan picked him up, they went to nice restaurant. Before their food even got there, they were chasing some criminal down a street. Will got punched in the eye, and Ethan’s suit got torn. They ended their night downing some drinks at a pub, dirty, and exhausted and with a promise from Ethan, “Next time won’t be like this.”

Naturally, next date was worse. They were actually on a mission, and went on a date at a cute cafe undercover, to spy on their target. Ethan got shot, Will was in the hospital for an injured ankle and an infected cut by the end of it. Ethan claimed that didn’t count as a second date and that the next one would be better.

The third date actually was MUCH better. It went like this:

Ethan decided to surprise Brandt by having him over and making him dinner. He burnt the lasagne, and they ended up ordering pizza and watching a rom com that came on tv because William decided their lives were stressful enough and that he saw enough explosions in real life and didn’t want to see more than necessary.

Thus began a new tradition of Ethan and William having a movie night once a week whenever they could. And if sometimes the two of them didn’t watch the entire movie and got busy with other things…. Well, the romcoms aren’t always that interesting.

At one point, Will dropped off the radar, going on a mission that he didn’t tell anybody, not even Ethan about. During their movie night before it happened, Will told Ethan he’d be going away for a while. They skipped the whole movie that night, making the most of the time they had.

Ethan pretended he wasn’t concerned when months went past. He knew the nature of their work.

Then there was an unfamiliar knock on his door. A nervous seeming woman and an agent stood at the door. Ethan felt his stomach drop.

“Ethan Hunt?” the woman asked, she sounded nice, she didn’t seem like an agent of any kind.

“Who’s asking?” Ethan brushed his hand over the gun tucked in the waistband of his pants in the back.

“I’m Dr. Marta Shearing… I’m a friend of William Brandt’s,” She smiled gently, Ethan felt that sinking feeling in his stomach again.

“Is he okay?” Ethan asked, concern etched in his brow, he had a feeling that Will wasn’t.

“Well, I wish I knew, Mr. Hunt. Will was a patient of mine a long time ago, we’ve been friends for a while, he’s saved my life multiple times… and then,” Marta looked at the agent, “My husband and I get a message from Aaro-... from Will, telling us to find you.”

“What did you start to call him,” Ethan immediately picked up on the slip up. Marta grimaced.

“Can we come in, Mr. Hunt, this isn’t really information that should be heard by others,” She looked meaningfully down the street, and Ethan immediately stood aside, letting Marta and her husband/agent in.

“What is it that you know about Will?” Ethan asked, leading them into his small living room.

“Well, I… I knew Will for a while before he worked for IMF, even though I don’t really think you could count us as friends back then. You see…. I knew Will before his name was William Brandt,” Marta said simply as she sat down on Ethan’s couch. Ethan crossed his arms, eyes demanding an answer, “William’s name, as I knew him for a while, was Aaron. Aaron Cross. Though that wasn’t what he was called when I first met him…” Marta looked at Ethan as if waiting for a response, he nodded to her to continue, “I was one of the doctors that worked on him, we called him Number 5. He was part of this…” Marta closed her eyes as if reliving a painful memory, “He was part of this program, where we tested these drugs to see if we could make the human body superior. I didn’t know it when I was doing the testing, but the participants in the program were used as agents all around the world. We increased their brain functioning abilities, and their metabolism supported physical capabilities, and then, little to our knowledge, they were sent out as super spies, used by the United States to get the upper hand on hostile nations. William, at the time Aaron, Number 5, was one of their best, but also one of the most questioning. He wasn’t as unquestioningly loyal as they wanted. However, that saved his life. Because out of nowhere, the CIA decided to shutdown Project Outcome. They killed all of the doctors that participated in the project, I only narrowly survived the initial attack. And then when they tried to kill me again, Aaron saved my life, because the drugs… they weren’t permanent, and Aaron… he needed the abilities the drugs gave him, he needed them to survive. So we went on a crazy journey to Manila, so I could-”

“Will hates Manila,” Ethan interrupted.

“Yes, that’s because when I made his abilities permanent he got really sick, and almost died, and when he came out of his fever, he had to save both of our lives from an assassin. We then went on the run, and we were on the run for a couple of years before the IMF caught us. They offered him a job, because when they caught us, Aaron had just stopped a terrorist attack single handedly. They gave him a new job, and a new identity, put me in a witness protective program, and he became one of their best agents. Suddenly, out of the blue, he quit field work and became an analyst. Now the IMF is disbanded, but Will, as you call him, is off on a mission and I haven’t heard from him in a month now, till last night, when I wake up to find a bloody note on my kitchen table, telling me to find you.”

“Why? Did the note say anything else?”

“It just said to tell you a name and then one line,” Marta looked at Ethan seriously.

“Jason Bourne, ‘I’m sorry for Croatia and for now’. What does that mean?”

Ethan closed his eyes, “It means that he thinks whatever he’s about to do is going to make me hate him.”